Alexandra Dillon is a Los Angeles-based surrealistic painter who creates art on found objects.
With a flair for the theatrical, Dillon employs European painting traditions, from Roman-Egyptian Mummy paintings to Baroque portraiture, to contemplate the crossroads of character, psychology, self-hood, and the feminine persona.
Dillon paints imagined portraits on worn paint brushes, the tool of her trade. These small paintings (whose size and shape are reminiscent of hand-mirrors) reflect unique personalities, "My characters come to me the way a novelist's do." she remarks. "They just show up and tell me who they are."
Most of these portraits are of women. They engage the viewer with their penetrating gazes, and challenge the notion of self-effacement as female protocol. They are thoroughly feminine, yet radiantly self-possessed. The men too, exude a sense of self, and seen as a group, speak to the shared experience of being human, yet, distinct, and in charge of our own destinies.
Exploring the connection between the clothes and the wearer, Dillon inverts the relationship by painting portraits of women on the dresses themselves. In one series, these ladies, are imagined as extras from the sets of Old Hollywood extravaganzas, representing the never-made-its who got to wear the costume only briefly, fulfilling an unsustainable, queen-for-a-day fantasy. Clothing becomes the metaphor for both expression and disguise, power and vulnerability.
Faces, or pieces of faces, painted onto old tools, such as axes, cleavers and locks create juxtapositions that illicit new readings of femaleness. These hard items, traditionally in the realm of the male, paired with the fleshy softness of the feminine, conjure paradoxes that confront our aversion to female anger, intellect and agency. A woman’s eyes, painted on an old axe, or a soft, Baroque face on a circular saw blade, also create linguistic puns: “that old battle axe”, “a sharp mind”, “hatchet face” et al. We are forced to question our expectations of what a lovely face represents, both currently and historically.
Dillon also ponders the inner realms of personal psychologies. A single eye, classically painted in oils, peers out from an old padlock, observing the key to which it is chained; tantalizing, yet, out of reach. A cleaver, painted with a screaming face, appears both terrifying, and terrified of its own action. Hidden agendas, fear and aggression become the subtext for many of her works, yet strangely, the subtle humor, with which they are painted, attests to a sense of hope.
A native of Los Angeles, Alexandra Dillon received her B.A. in film making from UCLA. Her love of Old Master painting led her to study classical realism in Florence, Italy.
Currently, she is an artist in residence at the 18th Street Art Center in Santa Monica, California, and her painted dresses and gloves were recently on view in Dress Rehearsal at the Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside, California. Her portraits have gone viral on Instagram and the web, earning her an international reputation for edgy surrealism and inventive work on found objects.
Reviewing Drawing Connections, at the 18th Street Art Center, Feb 2020, art historian Susan L. Power. Phd, writes:
"The striking sculptural assemblage, Drawing, It’s a Bitch, by Alexandra Dillon attest to the multifarious character of contemporary drawing practices. A meticulously-rendered eye, staring out from the flat (sur)face of an outmoded clothes iron conjures connections to late 1th century, early 19th century miniature eye portraits and surrealist objects combining visual puns and synecdoche, the work recasts Man Ray’s provocative nail studded flatiron, The Gift, in feminist terms. Tethered to the curvy wooden handle of this household tool a black leather BDSM flogging whip links the visual to the manual its multiple strands like fingers gripping flesh toned pencils, whose sharpened points allude to the countless directions that drawing and its meanings might lead.